Monday, December 31, 2007

GOODBYE, 2007 ...HELLO, 2008Earlier today, I was reading a post from The Blazing Center about what you want people to say about you when you die, to help you make decisions about the way you live. While this may seem morbid, I have always found it very helpful in really getting to the heart of the matter...what do I value?...What do I want to be remembered for, when it is all said and done?

This is an exercise that I do several times a week. When I am feeling overwhelmed and can't decide what to tackle first, when I catch myself becoming frustrated with the boys because they are getting in the way of me "getting stuff done", when the margins of my life get too small and I need to pare down, I ask myself "what is going to matter in eternity?" This question has also been good for reminding me to "not sweat the small stuff". While it might seem really important at the moment to "be right" about something trivial, or to be annoyed when my hubby forgot to pick up his shoes (again!), asking myself "will this matter in eternity? Or even in five minutes?" can really help me put things back in perspective.

So, in that vein, instead of making resolutions, I am going to make a list of things I want to be remembered for when I die. Hopefully, over the course of 2008, I will come a little closer to living out my ideals on a regular basis.

When I die, I hope people say...

...that my love for Christ showed in everything I did Phil. 4:4
...that my husband delighted in me. That I made his life better by taking good care of our home and children, and that he trusted me. Prov. 31:11
...that I never spoke a negative word about my husband Prov. 31:23
...that I lived a simple life. Content with little, happy in all circumstances, always available to those in need Phil. 4:11
...that my word could be trusted. I followed through on commitments and did not make idle promises Prov. 21:23
...that I was a hard worker Prov. 31:13-15
...that I was cheerful Prov. 15;13
...that I was a good listener James 1:19
...that I was a good mother, that spoke kindly and with patience Col. 3:12

I hope that as you look ahead to the new year, that your deepest desires are realized and that even the simplest of quotidian tasks become extraordinary. Happy New Year!

picture courtesy of won7ders from

Friday, December 28, 2007

SIMPLE CHRISTMASOur whole family fell sick two days before Christmas. The new Christmas tradition is to have Christmas Day dinner here at our house. This year we had a small crowd, with only Matt's parents, my parents, my three brothers, two girlfriends, my sister, our three boys, Matt, and myself. I was so glad we had a simple Christmas planned...we didn't feel up to doing much. In our family, Matt is the big shopper. He LOVES to shop. He went to Wal.Mart three times on Christmas Eve! I don't hate to shop, but I don't do it every often either. I also despise clutter, spending money, and consumerism in general. So, I was excited to have a simple Christmas, but worried about how the hubby would feel about it. Here is the breakdown of what we bought and how much we spent.
-Digital Camera $25
-Candy Necklace Kit $1
-Land Before Time Video $2
-Bath Paints and Crayons $4
-Misc. stocking items (new nerf bullets, candy, etc.) $4

-Band in a Box $14 (used off Ebay, includes shipping)
-Candy Necklace Kit $1
-Bath Paints and Crayons $4
-Misc. stocking items $4

-Sound Machine $20

Matt: (we don't really exchange christmas presents anymore)
-Stocking gifts $6

Other Gifts:
-2 gifts for family dutch auction $10 ($5 limit, per gift)
-Terra cotta pots* $7
-Other misc. gifts for friends and family $15

Food: (My part of christmas dinner)
-Ham $30
-Gratin Potatoes $3 (had most of the ingredients)
-Yeast Bread $2 (for the flour)


*The terra cotta pots were to make these for several friends. I already had chalkboard paint. B/c we have been sick, I haven't given them out yet, but I am planning to paint the pots, plant a rosemary bush (my mom has several small plants shooting off her rosemary bush that she is going to give me) in each one, then write "Rosemary" in chalk on the side of the pot. Cute, huh?
KITCHEN ADVENTURESI am a foody wannabe. I think. I am not sure what the qualifications are for being an authentic foody, but at any rate, I do love cooking, and I do love to eat and to feed people. I went through a spell a few months ago when my cooking lost its heart. But, I am happy that my months of soul-less cooking have passed and I am back in the kitchen, trying something new, almost daily.
Today (and the last 10 days), I have sick little boys. The whole family has been moping around, feeling yucky with congestion and fevers and such. What is a sure fire cure for the blues? Why, cooking, of course! This evening, we made pretzels, from this recipe. The kids had lots of fun rolling out the "snakes" and twisting them into different shapes. We topped them with melted butter and kosher salt on some, cinnamon and sugar on the rest. They were sooooo good. You should seriously try them. They were delish right out of the oven, and fun to make, too!
A week or so ago, Mom and I made our first ever batch of fresh Mozzarella out of fresh, raw milk and OH.MY.GOODNESS. I will never look at store-bought mozzarella the same again. It was so easy to make, and absolutely delicious. This was another food that the kids loved helping with. They had a great time kneading the cheese to remove the whey, then stretching it until it was the right texture. It seems that my children are more willing to try a food if they have had a hand in the preparation. I am hoping this will translate into them eating their veggies when they help grow them this summer.
That night, with my fresh mozzarella in hand, we made homemade pizza, using this recipe for the crust. I have used this recipe twice and so far haven't loved it, but am going to give it another chance b/c it received such high ratings, and I have not followed the recipe exactly.
I have been in post-holiday food detox the last few days, turning to simple comfort foods, such as vegetable soup and yeast bread. Pretty soon, I want to make these sweet looking cookies. Don't these just scream Valentine's Day?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

GUEST BLOGGER, THOUGHTS ON THE SIMPLE LIFE, PT 1I am very pleased to introduce my first ever, guest blogger!

This is a person who I have mentioned here many times. Her wisdom and insights have been and always will be, invaluable to me. No matter how many times a day I call with a question, complaint, or just to talk, she always has time for me. Many of my thoughts on simplicity, stillness, and contentment, have come from her. She has raised five children, all of whom she home schooled. At the same time, she built a home, with hours of research put into making it as authentic a period home as possible. It was built, in large part, with salvaged and found materials that she spent several years accumulating. She cans her own food, sews, raises chickens, teaches bible studies, plays piano, leads book groups and writes. Now that four of her five children are grown, she is exploring (formerly hidden) talents in photography and other art forms. She has recently become part owner in a gallery downtown. She is an idealist, a dreamer, and a mountain woman. She is my mother.

I was reading an interview with Thomas Moore last
night. A little more light was shed, for me,
concerning the "simple life" we all crave. Here is a
portion of what he said: "I think we need to get to
the point where our spirituality is so infused in our
daily life that you can't separate the enjoyment of
secular existence from a spiritual awareness. This has
to do with facing life as it comes, every single
aspect of life, and giving yourself to it completely."

Bonhoeffer said, " The challenge is to find God in the
thick of life, in the best place, and not just where
we are falling apart."

It is living a life of constant prayer and communion
that St. Paul advocates; the "abiding" that Jesus
talks about. We have to bring "every thought
captive". It's much easier to be busy and not

For me, the simple life begins in my head and heart.
It's a slowing down to give thanks in all things.
Sometimes that requires stopping. And as I practice
this, I find myself repulsed by loud noise, mobs of
people, elevator music, fast much of what
our modern life contains. But that's just me. Others
aren't bothered by those things.

The real world is that place where the liturgy of the
hours and the daily life of the heart come together in

The simple life looks different for everyone, because
we're all unique. God is doing a special, sanctifying
work in each of us based on His will and our own
personality. But biblical principles must be the base
on which we build our individual lives.

*Image from luminaireimages on

Friday, December 21, 2007


Not to beat a dead horse, but I just had to share the latest reason that I love to shop locally. Today, when I was checking out at the Discount Food Store, the cashier couldn't get the check card machine to work. I, of course, had no checks or cash on me. After a few minutes of trying to fix the machine, she says cheerily "No big deal, you can just pay for it next time you are in!".

Would that EVER happen at Wal.Mart? I don't think so...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

DO WE ALL CRAVE SIMPLICITY?A friend emailed me, in response to my Wide Margins post. She wondered why she has such a hard time slowing down and enjoying the simpler things. This is what she said:

"If you ever have any thoughts on it, would you consider writing what you think about people like me who really don't know how to enjoy things like hanging laundry outside, having container gardens, etc.? I think there's probably more people that are like me, but considering I seem to be surrounded by people who do enjoy those things, it makes me want to be able to enjoy them b/c I see how much you do. I don't think I take the time to enjoy things in general. I'm too fast paced. Like if I take a bath, I have to have something to read or else I feel like I'm wasting time."

I think many, many people feel this way, at least sometimes. But WHY? Why do we struggle with the balance of having a full life, but one that isn't too full of things that make life stressful? What is a simple life, anyway? That could look very different to different people...or might look different to the same person, at different stages of life. I don't know the answer to those questions, but I do know this. Living a simple, pared down life is better for you...less chaos and stress and pressures tugging at a person must be good for the health...lower blood pressure, better sleep, etc. Also, it is a biblical concept "Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10" It is very hard (If not impossible!) to commune with Christ if we are too busy rushing around to hear Him.

I also don't think that being still, choosing peace over chaos, is something that comes naturally. It is like anything else worth must be practiced intentionally. It is learned, over and over again. Our culture is not one that thinks much of simplicity or stillness. We want to be productive, efficient, organized. How much can we possibly cram into one day? How much multi-tasking can we do? It is all about the bottom line. I fight that mind set all the time. When my hubby comes home and asks me what I did that day, I want to give him a big, long, dramatic list of ALL the things I have accomplished. In my weak mind, sharing a long, impressive "ta-da" list with him says "See, aren't I important?"

There are several books that I think speak beautifully on the subject. Maybe you know of more (if so, please do tell!).
-The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris
-The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
-Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
-Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for mothers in a hurry by Katrina Kennison*

So, my friend and I are wondering: what is your take on leading and living a simple life? Do you see the importance of it? Do you enjoy being "busy" or do you long for margins in your day? What aspect of this to you struggle w/ most?

*This book is excellent for mothers with small children
KITCHEN GARDENI am very excited to begin square foot gardening in the spring. For the last few months, I have been walking around my yard, trying to find a spot that gets a lot of sun. We live on a very heavily wooded lot, and I had been afraid that I would have to cut down several trees to have a place that would be good for gardening....until I had an epiphany in the shower a few days ago (don't you do some of your best thinking in the shower? Maybe because it is the only place we can have some quiet?). The above picture is the parking pad where I park my car. It is right off the kitchen door and is at the side of the house that faces the street (the front of our house faces the woods instead of the road). We also have a circular drive at the front of our house.

Ok, so picture this. I can have four raised beds on this parking pad. I will have a pathway between each bed. The great thing about having my garden here is that weeds won't grow, since there will be the pebbles/cement under the raised bed, and I will already have pebbled walkways, without any additional work. Then, I am going to finish the fence and add a gate. That way, if someone parks on the street (which happens most of the time), or when I get the mail, we can walk through the sweet little gate, down the path that goes through the kitchen garden, and in the kitchen door (this is the entrance that almost everyone uses, since it faces the road). This spot also gets the most sun. Here is how it looks now from my kitchen porch entrance.Here is where you pull in from the road, where I want to finish out the fence. I think it will be oh-so-cute, and very Williamsburg, in keeping with the style of my house. I am going to plant the beds with herbs and veggies and a few marigolds and nasturtiums to keep the bugs away. I want to do the sweet little wattle corner guards that were used in Williamsburg too. (This image is from chispa on

Oh, BTW, I would start parking on the circular drive at the front of the house. There is a pathway from the drive to the kitchen door, that goes down the side of the house. It is a few more steps, but not too many. What do you think? Can you see any flaws in my plan that I am overlooking? My explanation seems very fragmented, probably because it is four in the morning. Does this sound like a good idea? Because in my head it is fabulous!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

WIDE MARGINSMy friend, Charlotte, and I were talking this morning about why it is that we are enjoying the process of simplifying our lives so much...discarding "progress" to do things the old-fashioned way. Why is it that kneading bread instead of using a bread maker, hanging laundry out to dry instead of throwing them into the dryer, canning food at home instead of buying it in a store, washing dishes by hand instead of using a dishwasher (and a myriad of other things), are so much more enjoyable, than their faster, more efficient counterparts?
In truth, I think we sacrifice a lot for the sake of convenience and saving time. While dishwashers, dryers, bread makers, vacuum cleaners, microwaves, and the like, all have their place and are wonderful inventions...we lose something valuable when we use them. We lose built in margins in our day. Kneading bread and waiting for it to rise does take time...but it is also theraputic. The slowing down, the tactile feeling of warm, yeasty dough under my hands, the pleasure of a simple task accomplished adds concrete value to my life.

It is so easy to be busy...running around trying to accomplish a multitude of tasks...but without any real satisfaction. Changing the way I think about my household tasks, and the way I perform them, has added simple pleasure to my day, as well as little moments to reflect, breathe, pray. The few moments taken to hang out laundry in the sunshine, to wash dishes by hand, to sweep the floor, offer up a much needed opportunity to re-center.

My last post eluded to to the struggle of the past week. It was really challenging. My house was a disaster, my children were out of sorts, and so was I. One of those days, Charlotte came over with her children and immediately began sweeping and straightening. I began working on the laundry. At one point, with my chin quivering, and tears barely contained, I told her that I was going to hang out the laundry. She later said "When you told me you were going to hang out the laundry, I knew it wasn't about trying to get housework done. You needed those moments alone, to recharge." She was absolutely right. Those ten minutes of quiet, out in the sun, praying and thinking, turned my day around. I wouldn't have gotten that if I had just thrown them in the dryer.

These changes I am making in my life are about much more than being eco-aware, or eccentric, or being counter-cultural. It is about maintaining the wide margins in my life that keep me calm, make my life more meaningful, and make me a better mother, wife, and friend. Doing things more simply teaches me to practice the presence of God...even during the most quotidian of tasks.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

GRATITUDEThis is the first chance I have had to post since Monday. It has been a ROUGH week. I won't bore you with the details but it all started with Caedmon breaking his leg on Monday and quickly went down hill from there. I don't know which has been more frustrating...the events that have transpired this week, or the way I have responded to them. Sharp reminders all around me, reminding me that I can do nothing, NOTHING right without the grace of my sweet Savior.

On nights like this, when I have nothing kind to say, I turn to my gratitude journal. I started this journal a few years ago when I was having a week just like this one. Sitting and writing down a few things that I am thankful for never fails to change my perspective. A few things that come to mind tonight...

-My children (though infinitely frustrating), love me, even when I yell

-My hubby, who is brave enough to lovingly set me straight, even when I am shooting him "THE LOOK"

-The friends who have lifted me up and encouraged me this week...Mom, Charlotte, Leigh Anne, Stacy, Michelle, Amanda, Louise, Pastor name just a few

-That every week is not like this one

-The smell of Christmas...cinnamon sticks on the stove, the Christmas tree, fresh baked bread

-The laundry, piled up in my laundry room. We have clothes to wear.

-The sink full of dirty dishes. We have food to eat.

-The silence around me. My children are sleeping.

-The chaos of a messy house. We have more material possessions than 80% of the world. We have a cozy little house that I love. We have abundance.

I am reminded of a part of a hymn I love: "Jesus, Cast a Look on me. Give me sweet simplicity. Make me poor, and keep me low. Seeking only Thee to know."

I have felt both poor and low this time, in rest, in spirit. And I have prayed. And prayed. Prayed for patience, for kindness, for love. I have asked for peace, for energy, for perspective.

Things will get better. And I will pray less. I will forget how much I need Him. I hate that I forget! So lastly, on my list tonight,

-I am grateful for this week, full of frustrations and disappointments, that points me to the cross, and reminds me, once again, of my constant need for a Savior.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Our power bill came today and I was soooo excited. It was a little weird to be excited about a bill, but I couldn't wait to see how my energy-reduction attempts had gone over. Our energy usage from Oct. 2007 was 1456 KW, and I was trying to cut that in half in November. Also, our usage in Nov. 2006 was also about 1450 KW, so I felt like I had a good idea of what a normal power bill for our house at this time of year was. Well, my first month of the (self-imposed) challenge wasn't a smashing success, but it wasn't a failure either.
Our usage for November was 1049 KW, or a reduction from last month and Nov. of last year of about 33%. Our bill was $95, down from $127 last month/last year, for a savings of $35+. Add that to my monthly grocery savings of $200, and I am saving about $235 a month, just by being more conscious of our choices and excess. I had no idea I was so wasteful!

I don't think I will be able to cut as much energy use this month without some creative ideas. With Christmas lights and colder weather, our energy use is bound to go up. Last month, we used the heat/air almost none (and kept it turned down to about 63 degrees), used the dryer less (more clothesline), turned off lights when we weren't in the room, and unplugged things that weren't being used, such as chargers.

So now I am you have any ideas you can share with me to further reduce our energy use this month? Maybe there are some things I haven't thought of. Please let me know! I really want to at least match last month's use, if not beat it.
Also, can you think of other areas that I could challenge myself to make cuts? I have enjoyed pushing myself to find new ways to reduce our output, save money, re-examine our lifestyle, etc. I would love to find more! It is so fun to "find" money! If you have any suggestions for either, please tell me!